A Man

A strange man was staring intently at something on the pavement.

I stopped to see what he was looking at.

He glanced at me, and in his eyes, I saw something that I didn’t care to examine.

Then he lifted his hat, put it back on his head, and walked off, lighting a cigarette.

His footsteps sounded gravelly on the pavement, which was slick with the drizzle that had rained down for the past hour.

The heavens were grey.

The houses huddled together.

A faint haze clouded the world, just so you couldn’t make out what was in the distance, but you couldn’t be entirely sure it was a fog.

‘What were you looking at?.’

The man vanished into the not-fog.

And there was nothing on the pavement.

I hurried along, feeling self conscious, somehow. Why did I stop. I don’t know.

I was expecting to see a dead rabbit, it’s body ripped apart so the insides spilled out and plastered onto the elements.

I was expecting to see a hole leading right down to the other side of the world, assuming the world was round, that is.

I was expecting to see the secrets of life in an open book. Why else would a man be so fascinated?

I don’t know.

Why was the strange man staring at the pavement?

When I got home, my roommate told me that sometimes people have private thoughts which the world has no business trying to get a hold of.

‘You can’t just pick up the phone, Penny, and ask what’s up.’

But you can, that is what phones are for.

I really wanted to know.

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Love Letters #17

I have a little secret. But shhhh. Don’t tell anybody.

Is it a glamorous secret? Dripping with intrigue and diamonds?

No, more like a sombre, deadly secret. One you might divulge by accident, and the other party laughs after a moment of hesitation because they think you are joking, and you just go along with it.

Oooh. Sounds juicy, darling. Do tell me more, I am dying to hear it.

I bet you are.

Don’t hold out on me!

Well, and I do really mean it when I say keep absolutely mum about what I’m about to tell you – well– it turns out, I am actually, erhhm, well, WELL…

Oh for goodness sake out with it. I’m half off my face anyway so it’s not like I will remember any of this tomorrow.

Okay, you know Peter Grimstone?

Yes of course I do. He is my cousin’s husband.

Oh, well in that case –

But my cousin and I are positively enemies. She’s so catty, I couldn’t-

No, sorry, this is ridiculous. I don’t know why I even –

Please, John, you can’t – you have to finish what you started – 

WELL – it turns out old Pete is a dark horse and a half, you know.

What sort of filthy secret is he hiding, then?

Not filthy so much as – well, make up your own mind when I tell you –

Come on, you’re killing me.

Alright, I’m getting to it. Jeez, Lorna, you’re so impatient –

I –

Anyway, like I was saying, he is the darkest horse of the lot. Back in the days when I used to hang around with Drake’s crew, we knew this guy who we all called Red. I say we knew him but we didn’t really, none of us had ever seen him. He would pass our goods on to us wearing a hooded cape and his face was covered like an assassin – but his eyes were always there and they were not the sort of eyes you’d forget, really. Striking blue and really electric.

Mhmm – so why did you call him Red?

I’m getting to that. He told us he was Red and nothing else, and we were all wondering why he was a Red and not a Blue or a Black – maybe red is more dangerous, who knows – anyway one day we were coming back to Drake’s flat where we used to hang out most nights, and half of us had just got off work so we were really looking forward to a night of just unwinding –

Oh, you naughty boys.

We were young, Lorna, young and free.

I’ll bet you were.

And we were coming home and Drake tells us Red is dropping some things by, and one of the boys, Dodge, we called him, says, ‘how abouts we pull that Red’s mask off to see what is lurking under that cape’ and we all jeer at him because it’s never occurred to any of us to do that, although we’d all been wondering for so long who the heck this guy was. ‘Nah, it’s too dangerous’ Drake says, and we laugh him out of the ballpark for that because there were seven of us and one of him – I don’t know, though, it seemed dangerous and none of us knew why. As far as we knew he was a one man show.

Go on.

Well, Dodge told us he would do it since none of the others wanted to. And sure enough, in the alley by Drake’s flat there was Red, leaning against the wall, and he reached his gloved hand into his cape and brought out the goods, and Dodge went for it, and as he reached out his hand to take them, he jerked quickly and grabbed at Red’s hood, seizing the guy’s head because – would you believe it – the hood wouldn’t come off! And the guy was just standing there and none of us said anything because we’re not confrontational like that, and Dodge stood back, kind of bewildered because his plan failed and what to do next?

What did you do next?

Nothing. Red took off his mask and there was no face under there, then he slowly put the goods back in his cape and his face was staring at us and it was like this cave of darkness under his hood and he spoke, he said, ‘Goodbye, fellas.’ and then walked away and we never heard from him again.

That is odd. What’s that got to do with Peter?

Well the other night, I was at Peter’s place –

I didn’t know you were all pally with Peter!

We haven’t been together long, Lorna.

But he is my cousin’s husband!

So you said.

I just thought you might have told me.

Peter and I met at your brother’s wedding.

Humph.

Anyway – I was at Peter’s and we were watching the news because of all the tension lately and he wanted to prove a point about something, so we were watching and then the phone rang, and he glanced at me and asked if I minded and I said no, so he got up and went into a room next to the TV room, not a bedroom, like a tiny study or something, and he speaks in a suspiciously low voice and I saw him look out at me once or twice, and then he closed the door but it bounced a bit open and I saw him take a black cape with a hood out of his wardrobe –

-Gasp-

And he shoved it in a tiny backpack and then he came out to me and told me he was going out really quickly to get milk and did I want anything. I said no I better get going anyway – and we walked out together and he saw me off but when I turned the corner I waited for a few seconds and tried to follow him.

And?

He vanished.

That’s weird.

I know, right?

Do you think he is Red?

I don’t know what to think.

Shifty. But, he didn’t recognise you then from the time your friend tried to take his hood off? Also, he has brown eyes.

Apparently not. And I know! Right?

Unless he did recognise you, and is biding his time?

He’s your cousin’s husband!

I don’t like my cousin.

Good point. Good point. Say, Lorna?

Yes?

Will you marry me?